Please don’t bore us, get to the chorus.

First lesson of presenting:

Say what you’re going to say.  Say it.  Say what you have just said.

I learnt this in my first ever presentation training and it is true not only of presentations, but every time that you want to communicate.

Got some feedback for a team member.  Say what you’re going to say, say it, say what you just said.

Pitching for a payrise.  Say what you’re going to say, say it, say what you just said.

Breaking up with someone… Say what you’re going to say, say it, say what you just said. 

Writing an awards entry, Say what you’re going to say, say it, say what you just said.

People’s ability to hear what they want to hear is pretty amazing, and our brains love to stick to existing patterns of thought, so if you have something new to pitch you need to make it simple and repeat it. 

If you complicate things, then that will allow misinterpretation.

If you hedge around an issue, people might just not hear anything that you say.

If you assume that they will work out what you mean from your subtle implications, you’re probably wrong.

And if you love (as many in adland do), to lead up to a big reveal, don’t count on the fact that people will still be paying any attention at all unless you have given them a really good reason to by, yes, you guessed it, saying what you’re going to say in the first couple of minutes.

Our favourite sing-a-long songs demonstrate this beautifully.  It doesn’t matter what the artist intended, all people remember is their interpretation of the chorus.

The Pogue’s classic, with the wonderful Kirsty MacCall, Fairy Tale of New York from 1987 is a perennial favourite in the UK.

But have you really listened to the lyrics?  They aren’t cosy, they aren’t that Christmassy and they aren’t really suitable for a singalong with your nan or your kids.

Britain’s favourite Christmas song, starts in the drunk tank, and goes downhill from there: Blessed Shane now “won’t see another one”.

Every Step You Take is still popular as a classic wedding song, and the Police original from 1983 was of course about a stalker.  40 years later, it’s still hugely popular, as a love song.

There’s a Bowie favourite used to rouse crowds and boost corporate spirits; but when people hear “Heroes” what they hear is just the line “We can be ‘heroes’!”.  What they don’t hear is that the song is actually about a doomed, dysfunctional couple whose dream is that they might be ‘heroes’ (Bowie includes the ironic quote marks, just to make it absolutely clear that they’re not really heroes) just for one day.

Born In The USA by Bruce Springsteen is played at patriotic gatherings.  Its about how badly vets were treated after Vietnam.

And the highly hummable, Stevie Wonder hit, Signed, Sealed, Delivered, I’m Yours, is less of an actual love song, and more of a dodgy and unbelievable grovelling apology for bad behaviour.

Of course, there’s more.

And why should the artists who made the hits worry?  After all they may be misunderstood, but as my grandmother would have put it, they’re misunderstood “all the way to the bank”.

The key point here is that this is more common than you might think, and this is worth remembering every time you begin to compose.

Let’s assume that most of our readers aren’t writing hit songs, but you probably are writing presentations, scripts for meetings or working out how to sell something.

Two crucial points to remember are:

You need a chorus, something memorable, and repeatable.

No-one will remember anything else apart from the chorus.

And, as I have said,

Say what you’re going to say, say it, and say what you have just said.

Or in other words:

Say the chorus, repeat the chorus, repeat the chorus again.

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